Monday, May 11, 2015

A Rose by Any Other Name...

While perusing the internets the other day, I came across THIS article on the Huffington Post about authors who change their names.... even further, authors who change their sex! 

Okay, not ACTUALLY, but via pen name for sure.

Possibly the most famous to do so, is our beloved J.K. Rowling herself. I guess technically, she didn't do a complete overhaul on her name, but in the face of the big, scary, literary world, she DID opt for gender neutral initials. On her website, J.K. herself says this: 

"The use of a pen name was suggested by her publisher, Barry Cunningham. He thought that young boys might be wary of a book written by a woman, so Joanne chose ‘K’, for ‘Kathleen’, the name of her paternal grandmother."

My little feminist feathers get a little ruffled when I hear this. I mean, WHY SHOULD IT MATTER if the author is male or female? Harry would have sold either way, right... RIGHT?! 

Okay. I hope he would have. But the truth is, you're right, I know that he might not have. 


But it isn't just lady authors changing their epithets to more masculine sounding names or initials. As the article points out, male authors do it too! (Which, by the way, I had no idea there even WERE incognito guys who wrote romance until I read this article.... which just goes to show how much I know, I suppose. Haha!) But it does make me wonder about the guys who write romance who DON'T change their names... 

... ahem... Nicholas Sparks, anyone?? 

I mean, if there was ever a person to write a better romantic, sappy, cheese dripping novel, I haven't heard of this person. (And I'm totally not mocking, by the way... I love me some Nicky Sparks just as much as the next gal!) But Nicholas Sparks... he's a GUY!! I wonder if HE ever gets irked that he's a man trying to his hawk his wares in the female dominated market of literary romcom? And I wonder if he ever considered changing HIS name (I mean... you know... back BEFORE Nicholas Sparks was Nicholas Sparks...) It makes you wonder what his secret is... HOW he sells chick books to chicks so successfully when he's was a guy... And if his agent ever had a similar J.K. Rowling conversation with him in those pre-publishing days.  

Anyway, I suppose in the end, if we can't expect people to NOT judge a book by it's cover, then we can't very well expect them not to judge names either, right? 

What are your thoughts? Do YOU use a pen name? Why or why not? 


Rachel Pattinson said...

This makes me a little bit sad - I feel like as authors, it shouldn't matter whether we're male or female, we should only be judged on the quality of our work, but alas, gender does apparently matter :(. I've heard it's hard for women to break into sci-fi - I did consider a pen name/shortening to just my initials to see if it increased sales of my books but then I thought, y'know what? Why should I? Why SHOULDN'T women write sci-fi and be proud of it? So I'm going to continue using my full name - if people don't want to buy my book based on my gender, then I don't want them reading it ;).

Sorry about the mini-essay!! I didn't mean to rant so much ;)! Great post!

Julie Tuovi said...

Rachel: YEAH!!! Stick it to the man, lady!!! I love that you kept your name, and I completely agree that we should NOT judge books by names. Okay, cover? Yeah, I get. Judge away, I'm completely guilty of doing that. But names?? Eeeesh. I mean, it matters, I know it does. But for the love, I wish it didn't.


Chrys Fey said...

Excellent points! I was practically cheering while reading this. I remember reading about all the women authors who had to use pen names to break into the publishing industry because only men were being published then and I was furious. And to think that some still believe that women should use pen names to attract male readers, to this day, is absurd to me.

Emily R. King said...

Hmm, sometimes I wonder if my super strong female MC's would come off better if I had made them a boy...

Gender roles can be a pain in the you-know-what, but that's part of life, and if someone thinks they should use a pen name, I say go for it. Do what you gotta do to get your work out there!

S. L. Hennessy said...

I like pen names, but mine is more in homage to my favorite authors - J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, and J. K. Rowling :)

prerna pickett said...

Sometimes I think about using a pen name, only because my actual name is pretty unique, but not sure if I would actually go through with it. I also want to write outside one genre, and in that case it's smart to use different pen names to gain a broader audience.

Julie Tuovi said...

@Chrys: YES!! It seems absurd to me too! I mean, I get it... despite the fact that I hate it, I GET why people do it. I just don't think I ever would--EVEN if it got me more readers! I would stubbornly hold onto my girly name on matters of principal! Haha!!

@Emily: Ew... isn't that sad that we think that? (About the MC thing....) Why shouldn't strong female characters be just as admirable as their male counterparts? Here's to hoping that strong leads like Katnis are paving the way to make this more "socially" acceptable. Girl power!

@Lauren: Um, yeah, you start throwing out great names like those and who can argue with your logic?! Haha!

@Prerna: No way! It's BECAUSE your name is so unique that you should use it! "Tuovi" is actually my middle name. I dropped my oh-so-run-of-the-mill last name AND maiden name to (Baker and Hansen respectively... *snore*...) because I thought Tuovi was so much more rock awesome. You should definitely keep your name!!